Notes I wrote to myself while listening to an Easter Sunday sermon
I don't always write notes during church services, but I usually do. What people sing, say and do during these gatherings trigger lots of thoughts, ideas and reflections in me. They may be related or unrelated to what is going on at the moment. One way I keep from being completely distracted is to jot thoughts down while continuing to listen and engage in all that is transpiring.
So, this Easter Sunday, I scribbled these thoughts down in my little notebook while taking in the sermon, which, I realized before it was half over, had nothing to do with the Resurrection. Here are my notes, more for my benefit than anyone else's:
For whatever personal emotions and experiences it foments, belief in the Resurrection takes the call to do justice and dismantle domination to a whole new level. Break every chain.
What was small, limited and provincial becomes socially explosive, culturally transformative and uncontainable.
The promise of Resurrection to infuse and empower authentic community building, justice doing and peace making is missed, overlooked, or bypassed in most Easter sermons.
It is just half a Gospel that speaks to and calls for personal forgiveness and new life. Taking it out of its fuller community context and limiting the application of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus to personal salvation misshapes, misspeaks and cheapens the Gospel.
Beyond personal applications, explore the collective power and promise of the Resurrection in the shared life of the followers of Jesus: how does it change how they understand themselves, their understanding of who Jesus was/is, their way of being, their grasp of their mission, their anticipation of the future?
The promise of Resurrection is not as much about personal hope for eternal life as it is about empowerment to challenge death’s living manifestations and do the loving justice Jesus demonstrated--here and now.
Death is manifested in life largely in fallen principalities and powers—idols, ideologies and institutions (Stringfellow)—that pretend to hold ultimate power and demand ultimate allegiances. Resurrection empowers a frontal challenge to these pretensions.
Resurrection faith offers life and hope in the face of death's assertions, pretensions and raw power. It makes it possible to live in a way that is truly liberating and empowering and that denies death its desperate victories.
Dear pastor friends: The focus of Easter is not about sin and the cross, it is primarily about the empty tomb and risen Jesus.
There is way too much trumped-up sentimentality by church leaders and worship planners regarding Easter. Over-dramatization and hyperbole cheapens the story’s organic power. Let the story speak without embellishment.
Please publicly read the Resurrection narratives in the Gospels. And perhaps at least one Pauline interpretive passage regarding the Resurrection. Don’t assume everyone knows the story—or that you do.
Resurrection is not natural, not part of the ‘cycle of life,’ not comparable to anything we find in the natural order of things. It is not metamorphosis. It is not the Phoenix rising out the ashes. Stop trying to compare it to these. If anything, contrast it to these.
The Resurrection is not something you have to try to prove to anyone. Simply read the story, recognize its power reflected in the lives of the first generation who testified to it, and share stories of its promise in changing lives--and communities--ever since.
John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA